For the last week, I’ve been dieting and exercising. After seven days of hard work, I’ve managed to lose 5lbs, going from 194 lbs to 189lbs.
This isn’t my first time round the diet & exercise block. I’ve been in and out of diets and exercise routines for the last couple years, trying to get in shape and be healthy, but ultimately ending up back where I started. It wasn’t until watching a documentary called ‘Fed Up’ that I learned a lot about food balance.
Now, I’ve watched that Australian guy talk about juice and how vitamin rich juicing is, and I’ve watched that super-size me knockoff that talks about how beneficial fat actually is to the body, and I’ve watched documentary after documentary about how unhealthy meat is, the list goes on. But none of them – not one – talk about food balance.
Fed Up, though mostly about the food industry and childhood obesity, gave some really helpful insights to me about a balanced diet – specifically in regards to your sugar and your carbs. It gave the example of almonds, and how almonds are loaded with carbs, but the carbs our “balanced out” by the vast amount of fiber that is used to distribute sugar and carbs in your body properly – to be used as energy. Not having fiber, ultimately results in building fat.
So, upon learning all this, I took some initiative to do more research. Not just on sugar, but protein, fats, sodium, vitamins, etc. and have since developed my own diet & exercise plan.
For exercise, I do cardio circuit training of some sort, twice a day. I wake up bright and early in the morning, hydrate myself, and do twenty minutes of high-impact cardio – sometimes incorporating weights. This seems like a drag to do, but once I’m done, and I cool off and get showered, I feel quite energetic throughout the rest of the day.
In the evening, I do another workout, usually no later than 7PM. This workout usually doesn’t incorporate weights, and lasts anywhere between 40-60 minutes. I work my abs, arms, and do full on cardio, all at the same time. Kicks, punches, situps, jacks, high-knees, jump-ropes, pushups, etc. All incorporated into a single workout.
In total, I burn anywhere between 800-1200 calories per day.
Before I go and say how many calories I eat – let me say, I eat a LOT more than I used to, more frequently, and I don’t let myself go hungry.
I’ve been taking advantage of the MyFitnessPal app, which lets you log not only your calories, but your fiber, protein, fat, etc. and sets a goal intake for everything.
For me, my goal intake is 1680 calories. Of those calories, 50 percent are to be carbs, 30 percent fat, and 20 percent protein. However, I don’t ever end up taking in that many calories. Usually, I take in about 1200, if not less on some days. Seems crazy, right?
For me though, it’s not about the calories as much as what’s in them. I do my best to keep the percentages above in line throughout the day as much as possible. But on top of this, I have some rules for my carb and sodium intake.
First, I always try to stay under my sodium limit. Doing so allows me to keep that “water weight” off. If I end up exceeding it, I feel bloated the next weight, and ultimately gain weight, and avoid sodium as much as possible to have everything balanced out.
Next, is carbs vs fiber. I avoid added sugar as much as possible. Any and all sugar in any meal should come from a natural source, such as fruits and vegetables. Also, I try to apply the 10:1 rule; for every 10 grams of carbohydrates I take in, I should have at LEAST 1 gram of fiber.
As far as foods I choose to eat, I tend to eat mixed-green salads, veggie sandwiches, lean meats like chicken and turkey, fish (thank God I don’t have to give up sashimi!), fiber-rich protein bars/oats bars (such as FiberOne, or oatmeal) and lots of fruit. For those times when I need bread or pasta, I stick with whole-grain all the way, and have been substituting rice with quinoa. These are just the typical foods, there are also a lot of calcium rich foods and drinks I add on to recipes or meals, like cheese, almond milk, etc.
With the workout routine I have, I tend to get hungry every couple hours, so I usually go for some fruit; it doesn’t take a large portion of it to hold me over. 1/2 an apple, or one medium sized banana does the trick.
Doing this almost always allows me to meet my daily vitamin and calcium needs, but I have yet to exceed the 1650 calorie limit. And I never feel full.
So, what exactly is the diet? Stay balanced and natural. Whole grains, fruits, veggies, lean meats, and lots of fiber do the trick for me.
Well what about protein???
One thing that always gets brought up since doing this “natural” diet, and that is my protein intake. I’m constantly told that I need to be taking in a ton of protein, however, doing my own research, I’ve found that…I really don’t!
Now, I’m not saying I don’t need protein, but I AM saying I don’t need a ton of it. I try my best to meet that 20% mark mentioned before. Fact is, even while I’m working out as frequently as I am, I don’t need an excess of protein. I need just enough to allow my muscles to recover from the workout.
Many athletes and body builders require excess protein because they’re building muscle quickly; they need fast recovery times so they can push their muscles to the very limit in every work out. This is not my goal.
My goal is simply to push myself little by little to be more in shape, to eat right, and to be healthy. Doing this has kept my caloric intake low, but my energy level high.
Doing this, I’ve dropped all my water weight, losing five pounds in a week, while staying full and feeling more and more energetic, focused, and happy.
Things that keep me going
The number one thing that keeps me going is my weight and health. Seeing a difference in my appearance and seeing the number on the scale drop after only a week has been a huge motivator, but that’s not all there is to it.
I don’t feel limited. Yes, I am limiting myself when it comes to WHAT I can eat, but never WHEN. If I’m hungry at 9PM, I eat. Period. Midnight snacks? Why not! As long as it doesn’t throw off my nutritional balance goals, there’s no reason not to.
The food tastes better. Now, I owe this to my wife – she amazes me when it comes to home-cooked meals. She’s a master at taking recipes, making them healthier and lower in calories without compromising the taste and satisfaction of feeling full. Here vegetarian chili is delicious, and her turkey burgers beat any all-beef burger you can buy at any restaurant. Sorry, In-n-out, I’ve got you beat.
I get a cheat day. My wife and I have decided we should have a cheat day. Having a cheat day breaks up the routine and lets us enjoy some of our favorite foods that we’ve been sacrificing throughout the week. HOWEVER, it’s not so much a cheat day as it is a cheat meal. One meal can be as big as we want, with as many carbs as we want, with whatever drink we want, from wherever we want, and dessert is even welcome. But that is it, and that’s enough.
I don’t punish myself for messing up. Yes, there have been days where I’ve had too many carbs, or too much fat, or too little fiber, etc. But it’s not something to beat myself up or get depressed over. I’m a bit of an emotional eater, so if I beat myself up over it, I’m going to end up eating a bag of oreos, or a carton of ice cream, or an entire box of mac n’ cheese. So instead of doing that, I make a mental note to do better the next day, and try extra hard to make that happen.
The positive changes so far
There are obviously a wide number of benefits to eating healthier and exercising.
For me, my weight dropping has been a confidence booster. I’m a little hard on myself when it comes to my appearance, so seeing the change in my body has kept me motivated and a bit more confident in myself in general.
I’m sleeping a lot better at night. Which ultimately makes it easier for me to work out in the morning. Win win!
I have a lot more energy. Combining the better night’s sleep with the built up endurance from exercising, I find myself not wanting to pass out when I get home from work.
I feel healthier. I’m headache and migraine prone. It seemed like every couple of days, I’d have a terrible head ache. However, since starting this diet and exercise plan, I haven’t had a single headache.
If you take anything from this, and if I had any advice to give, have a balanced diet. You don’t need to workout as frequently as I am. The important thing here is to be healthy. Exercising every day is healthy, yes, but you don’t NEED to burn 1000 calories in cardio every day. Go for a walk, eat natural, vitamin, fiber, and protein rich foods, and avoid processed, sugary foods.
You’ll feel better, you’ll be healthier, and you’ll live longer. Take care of yourself.
In a few weeks..
Once a week, I will be taking pictures of myself to record my progress. These will remain private for now, however, I have a goal to meet in a few weeks. If I meet that goal, maybe, just maybe I’ll share the progress with an update.